Affiliation: Viamonte 1881 10A,1056 Buenos Aires, Argentina Fax: 54 11 4811 7447
5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA) is the first intermediate in heme biosynthesis and is therefore a precursor of protoporphyrin IX (PpIX). PpIX is used as an endogenous photosensitizer in photodynamic therapy (PDT). Several chemical modifications have been made, both on the amino and carboxyl groups of ALA to induce higher PpIX production and photosensitisation. Esterification of ALA with aliphatic lineal and cyclic alcohols was found to reduce the amount of ALA required for photosensitization. Esterification by aliphatic alcohols with carbohydrate chains equal or lower than C4 leads to porphyrin accumulation lower than ALA, whereas equal or longer than C6 chains leads to greater synthesis of porphyrin. A branch point in the alcohol located next to the site of ester cleavage limits access of the esters to the esterase active site, resulting in lower PpIX production. ALA esters of the polyethylenglycol family can induce high levels of PpIX, with some selectivity for endothelial cells toward tumor cells. On the basis of the differential expression of some aminopeptidases in tumor vasculature when compared to normal vasculature, some ALA-pseudopeptides were synthesized. In a rational design of ALA derivatives, the transport mechanism of these aminoacids into the cell is central. Due to the similar characteristics between ALA and GABA transport, a novel approach for designing new ALA derivatives which could penetrate more easily into tumoral cells, would be to take into account the structures of the inhibitors of GABA transport.